We learn and develop our whole lives. The process never stops - we constantly gain new skills and polish the ones we already have. It is crucial for the success of our professional life.
Of course, depending on our individual strong sides, there will always be skills that we develop faster and more efficiently than others. Some - especially the soft skills - come to us naturally, others we need to spend a bit more time honing.
Especially hard skills are specific enough that we usually can’t fully master them without guidance. One can be born with a knickknack for computers, but that doesn’t mean they will be able to confidently put “advanced programming skills” on their resume without supporting that statement with a course completion certificate.
In this article, we will discuss the soft and hard skills that employers look for in graduate candidates - and give some tips on how you can prove you already have them!
Let’s begin with soft skills. Here are the top 5 soft skills most valued by employers, according to a 2022 research performed by Zety:
Do you find any of them surprising? It says a lot that employers nowadays pay more attention to creativity than organisation - the latter finds itself in the 7th place. Where the professional world used to revolve around everything working like in a well-oiled machine, now it focuses more on the originality an individual can bring to the team.
Not surprisingly, this skill is, and will continue to be, the most sought-after one among employers. The majority of professions require us to cooperate in one way or another. You may not be directly involved in a group project, but that does not mean you are on your own.
Everybody at a company has their own role to fulfil. If even one person fails in delivering their responsibilities, others’ tasks fall apart as well. Even if the connections may not be so visible at a first glance, Eva’s work in Marketing is strictly related to what Mark does in Sales. That, in turn, influences Sarah’s tasks in Finance. As cliché as that sounds, there is no space for “I” in “team”.
Delivering your own tasks, you need to respect the work of others - and think about how you influence it, and vice versa. You have to keep up with more than just your own responsibilities, and remember the ultimate goal. Working at a company is different from being a freelancer - you don’t do everything on your own or pay someone else to do it for you. There are supervisors you need to listen to, coworkers you have to cooperate with, and clients that must be satisfied. And all of that can only be delivered through teamwork.
Over your years at uni, you must have been required to complete a group project at least once. Use that experience to demonstrate your ability to teamwork.
This point is strictly tied to the previous one. We have already established how important it is to identify the web of roles everybody performs and their meaning. The only way that can be done is through communication.
It is not only about communicating with others - the key is effective communication with others. Every team and every environment has different dynamics. You need to be able to adequately adapt to it and follow the tone that is set.
For example, it is not enough to tell someone that a certain task has to be completed, and that it has to be done now. You need to make sure that others understand why it is important, where the time sensitivity comes from, and what exactly needs to be done. If you communicate it well, the quality of the work delivered will be much better. Everyone will be thorough because they are aware of exactly why what they are doing is crucial - not just because you said it is.
Given how we spend roughly ⅓ of our lives at work, maintaining a friendly atmosphere should be one of our priorities. Effective communication helps avoid misunderstandings that could result in potential conflicts and lifts the morale of the entire team.
At university, you interacted with dozens of different people every day - your coursemates, professors, flatmates. Some of them you liked, some of them you didn’t, but you were able to communicate with everyone effectively. This proves you have the communication skills you need for the job.
Employers want to know that you won’t spend days on a task that only needs hours to complete. They need to be sure that you can prioritise your duties and reach your goals in a timely manner, avoiding responsibilities stacking up like the Babel tower.
At work, there will be nobody to stand over you and verify if you’ve managed to do everything you were supposed to. Of course, you will be held responsible for meeting deadlines, but the only person in charge of making sure you get there will be you.
You will have a manager whom you can always ask for advice and whom you can regularly update on your progress, but they will likely have twice as many responsibilities as you. They won’t have the time to mark every step as “completed” and send you reminders if you fall off track. You will be expected to monitor your progress on your own using any means that work for you.
During your studies, you had to juggle multiple classes, deadlines, and maybe a job. You have turned in dozens of assignments, attended countless classes, and managed to study efficiently enough to receive a degree. That demonstrates that your time management skills are well-developed.
No matter how good your time management skills are, there will always be situations that are just out of your control. Putting out fires is an inherent part of everyday life - both professional and personal.
While at first, you won’t be directly responsible for solving the big problems at the management level - your superiors will be taking care of that - you will still experience moments where you need to come up with a solution fast.
Employers look for someone who can remain level-headed despite a crisis and is quick on their feet. While it is advisable to think matters through rather than make spontaneous decisions, that doesn’t mean it should take you a small eternity to solve a problem.
Time is money and, like we have recently seen during the pandemic, the businesses who were the fastest to come up with strategies to adapt to the rapid changes were the ones who survived. Those who spent too much time thinking are either very weakened right now, or long gone.
You cannot possibly have lived this long without experiencing at least one situation you would qualify as an emergency. Preparing for an interview, we recommend recalling one - when asked to prove your problem-solving skills, describe such a situation, specify your role in it, and the outcome. Employers want to see clear, specific examples. If you think of one beforehand, it will let you avoid the stress of having to come up with a memory on the spot.
The importance of creativity in a job definitely heavily depends on the kind of position. Employers hiring Copywriters or Designers will definitely pay more attention to that particular feature than those looking for Accountants or IT support.
However, as Zety’s survey involved employers from various industries, it is certain that creativity is playing a much more crucial role than it did in the past. In a struggle to remain original and stand out from thousands of competitors, companies strive for employees with a different points of view. They want workers who will bring fresh ideas to the team, help direct the business onto a new path.
There is space for creativity in essentially every role. You can always do things differently, in a more efficient or simply more interesting manner. Especially in start-ups, everybody’s suggestions for expansion and branding are welcomed, so employers value candidates with a vision.
Don’t worry if you haven’t been a big enthusiast of typically creative hobbies such as art, music, or drama. If you can’t share your experience creating something in the literal meaning of the word, simply show what makes you different. What recruiters want to see is simply someone who is more memorable than other candidates, so present yourself in a way that will make you that person.
If you’d like to find out what the remaining five of the top ten employers look for are, have a look at Zety’s article. Meanwhile, let’s move on to the equally important hard skills!
It goes without saying that the chances of getting any job without basic computer literacy are very, very low. However, as the world around us develops at an incredible speed, candidates are required to demonstrate more than just a knowledge of the Microsoft Office package.
More and more employers enjoy seeing on CV competencies such as:
management of Social Media
online platforms such as Search Console, Google Analytics, WordPress
Of course, it does not mean that you should have all of those skills - some of them are quite specialised. However, the general conclusion is that it is better to be friends with technology than not. Maybe now is a good time to invest in a basic computer programming course.
Obtaining a license as soon as we come of age has become so popular nowadays that employers are beginning to take that fact for granted. Maybe not in bigger cities where having a car brings more trouble than benefits, but in general, recruiters like seeing that particular skill on a CV.
That doesn’t mean that you will be required to have your own car, or that your position will even include you driving around a lot. It is more about driving being perceived as a universal skill to the point where it looks almost odd when somebody hasn’t obtained it.
It is mostly about what having a license symbolises - completing a course (usually while you’re still at school or already at work and have to find the time for practice) requires time management, determination, and hard work. It also demonstrates that one thinks about their future, obtaining the permit in case it is ever needed.
Of course, becoming a professional designer comes with years of hard work, incredible talent, and countless completed courses. However, even if you are not aiming for a position as a designer, those basic skills might still come in handy:
knowledge of software such as Adobe Creative Cloud (the one with Photoshop, and much more)
eye for aesthetics (knowing which colours go well together and what they represent)
video and audio production
Especially in smaller businesses, where the lines between roles are less strict and can easily blur, any additional skills that may not directly go with your position will be perceived as an advantage.
If one day, you decide to start your own business, this will be the aspect that will prove to be crucial, so the earlier you acquire a general understanding of the most basic marketing methods, the better.
Here are some examples:
different forms of Marketing (email/Social Media/affiliate)
online tools and platforms (Google Analytics, WordPress)
Some of those skills are very specific and you most likely won’t need them unless you plan a career strictly in marketing. If that is the case, then you will need to make sure to polish your hard skills in that area, because they will give you a huge head-start over other candidates who haven’t taken their time to learnt the basics.
The chances of your first position being one on a management level are very low. Still, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be promoted or will go off to find another job in the near future, so working on your management skills from the very beginning will definitely pay back one day.
Leadership is a soft skill and an entirely different manner - if you have it, you might be more inclined to eventually become a manager. If you don’t, you can always improve, just like with any other skill. Still, leadership is not all that makes up a good manager.
You will also need hard skills such as:
deep knowledge of the industry
familiarity with project management tools (Asana, Hive, Trello) - a great way to achieve that and gain the required know-how is to engage in an online project management program!
You will also need a thorough understanding of the positions of everyone in your team, as well as a vast knowledge of the company in general.
There is one skill that, although it is classified as hard, is in our opinion the most important of all. It is, you guessed it, the knowledge of languages!
Whereas the other skills are milestones on your path to success, languages are keys that open doors to opportunities everywhere. Quite literally - when you can positively say you have some of the skills mentioned above plus know a language, you can find a job anywhere in the world.
So, there you go. Surprised to see you most likely already have at least some of the skills described above? You can go ahead and add them to your graduate CV!
When you start a new job, you will be provided with training that will help you develop the skills that are crucial for your position. You can also be proactive and invest in some online courses to learn something new and boost your employability.
What skills are the most important for you? Would you add anything to the list? Which ones do you feel are your strongest sides? Let us know in the comments below!